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Effect of Contextualization of Content and Concepts on Students' Course Relevance and Value in Introductory Materials Classes

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2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


New Orleans, Louisiana

Publication Date

June 26, 2016

Start Date

June 26, 2016

End Date

June 29, 2016





Conference Session

Materials Division Technical Session 2

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Paper Authors


Stephen J. Krause Arizona State University

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Stephen Krause is professor in the Materials Science Program in the Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona State University. He teaches in the areas of introductory materials engineering, polymers and composites, and capstone design. His research interests include evaluating conceptual knowledge, misconceptions and technologies to promote conceptual change. He has co-developed a Materials Concept Inventory and a Chemistry Concept Inventory for assessing conceptual knowledge and change for introductory materials science and chemistry classes. He is currently conducting research on NSF projects in two areas. One is studying how strategies of engagement and feedback with support from internet tools and resources affect conceptual change and associated impact on students' attitude, achievement, and persistence. The other is on the factors that promote persistence and success in retention of undergraduate students in engineering. He was a coauthor for best paper award in the Journal of Engineering Education in 2013.

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Cindy Waters North Carolina A&T State University

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Her research team is skilled matching these newer manufacturing techniques to distinct material choices and the unique materials combination for specific applications. She is also renowned for her work in the Engineering Education realm working with faculty motivation for change and re-design of Material Science courses for more active pedagogies

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William Joseph Stuart P.E. Oregon Institute of Technology

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Professor Joe Stuart


B.Sc., Metallurgical/Mechanical Engineering, University of Nevada at Reno (1969) M.Sc., Physical Science, University of Southampton, UK (1972)


2006 to Present Program Director Manufacturing Engineering Technology, OIT
2011 to Present Associate Professor, MMET Department, Oregon Institute of Technology
2004 to 2011 Assistant Professor, Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls
2002 to 2004 National Accounts Manager, Wagner Electronics
1998 to 2002 President/Owner, Best Tech USA
1985 to 1998 VP and General Manager, Alumaweld Boats Inc & Rogue Trailers Inc. 1984 to 1985 Manufacturing Rep MDA Associates
1981 to 1984 Quality Engineer, International Memories Inc.
1980 to 1981 Design Engineer Balteau Standard
1977 to 1980 Field Engineer, Wisar Construction
1975 to 1977 General Manager Milthorn Toleman Ltd., UK
1974 to 1975 Chief Scientist, Puerto Rico Nuclear Center
1972 to 1974 Engineering Consultant, EPA
1969 to 1970 Metallurgical Engineer, Republic Steel Inc.

Professional Societies:

American Society of Engineering Education, Life time member Society of Manufacturing Engineering, American Society of Mechanical Engineers


(i)Most Closely Related
[1] W.J. Stuart ‘Problem Based Case Learning - Composite Materials Course Development – Examples and classroom reflections’ NEW Conference, Oct 2011
[2] W.J. Stuart and Bedard R. (EPRI) ‘Ocean Renewable Energy Course Evolution and Status’ presented at Energy Ocean Pacific & Oregon Wave Energy Trust Conference, Sept. 2010.
[3] W.J. Stuart, Wave energy 101, presented at Oregon Wave Energy Symposium, Newport, OR, Sept. 2009.
[4] W.J. Stuart, Corrosion considerations when designing with exotic metals and advanced composites, presented at Corrosion Conference of Exotic Metals, Park City, UT, 2009.
[5] W.J. Stuart, Ruth Loring, Ed Webster, Frank Cox, Composite materials course development using problem based case learning techniques, National Educators Workshop, Greensboro, NC, 2009.
[6] W.J. Stuart, Three pronged approach to sustainability at OIT, presented to faculty and staff at OIT 2008 Fall Convocation, 2008.
[7] W.J. Stuart, Sustainability workshop, presented to faculty and staff at OIT 2006 Fall Convocation, 2006.
(ii) Other
[1] W.J. Stuart, Successful programs that have been enriched by industry and engineering education connections, Proceedings of ASEE Conference, Chicago, IL, 2006.


• Course development for Ocean Renewable Energy for Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Renewable Energy Engineering students: developed and taught a new undergraduate dual listed course, Ocean Renewable Energy, in spring 2010. This course has now also been developed and is offered (and has been taught) as a ‘Distance Education’ course.
• Course and lab development for Advanced Composites for Manufacturing Engineering Technology and Mechanical Engineering Technology students: developed and taught a new undergraduate dual listed course, Advanced Composites, in spring 2009 and winter 2010.
• Student advising and course integration in sustainable concepts and life cycle analysis and material selection considerations.
• Innovations in teaching: used innovative teaching methods to enhance the learning experience through introducing problem based case learning techniques in classes and course structure; presentation of paper in National Educators Workshop.


(i) Collaborators and Co-Editors
Frank Cox, Edmonds Community College; Ruth M. Loring, Nashville State Community College; Wangping Sun, Oregon Institute of Technology; Ed Webster, Institute for Professional Training and Education; John Anderson, Oregon Institute of Technology

(ii) Special Material Expert
Curriculum development for National Resource Center-CAM composite materials course for National Resource Center at Edmonds Community College.

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Eugene Judson Arizona State University Orcid 16x16

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Eugene Judson is an Associate Professor of for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. His past experiences include having been a middle school science teacher, Director of Academic and Instructional Support for the Arizona Department of Education, a research scientist for the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology (CRESMET), and an evaluator for several NSF projects. His first research strand concentrates on the relationship between educational policy and STEM education. His second research strand focuses on studying STEM classroom interactions and subsequent effects on student understanding. He is a co-developer of the Reformed Teaching Observation Protocol (RTOP) and his work has been cited more than 1500 times and his publications have been published in multiple peer-reviewed journals such as Science Education and the Journal of Research in Science Teaching.

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Casey Jane Ankeny Arizona State University

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Casey J. Ankeny, PhD is lecturer in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University. Casey received her bachelor’s degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Virginia in 2006 and her doctorate degree in Biomedical Engineering from Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University in 2012 where she studied the role of shear stress in aortic valve disease. Currently, she is investigating cyber-based student engagement strategies in flipped and traditional biomedical engineering courses. She aspires to understand and improve student attitude, achievement, and persistence in student-centered courses.

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Bethany B. Smith Arizona State University

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Bethany Smith is currently a master’s student in materials science and engineering at Arizona State University. She has been involved in STEM education research since 2012 under the direction of Professor Stephen Krause. Her research interests in STEM education include faculty development, best classroom practices, and improving undergraduate engineering student retention through understanding what makes students leave engineering. She will be pursuing her PhD in Materials Science and Engineering starting in 2016 at the University of California Berkeley.

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Contextualization of a course's content and concepts can improve student motivation, learning, and persistence. In this research eight faculty at four institutions implemented web-enabled, engagement and feedback pedagogy in an NSF TUES Type 2 project, JTF (Just-in-Time-Teaching with Interactive Frequent Formative Feedback). A key feature of the pedagogy is contextualization of content and concepts in introductory materials science courses. The theoretical framework used to structure the research is based on principles described in the book How People Learn. The book discusses how cognitive processes act to achieve learning through conceptual change based on three major principles, which include the following. For more effective learning, instructors need to: 1) identify students' prior knowledge to inform instruction; 2) engage students to promote conceptual change so they can construct deep knowledge organized in a conceptual framework; and 3) encourage metacognition to build habits of expert learners who define their learning goals and monitor their own progress. The research question is, "What is the role and impact of contextualization of content with respect to student attitude, achievement and persistence."

The use of contextualization of content is supported by the three principles. For the first principle, prior knowledge, it has been shown that instruction with contextualized content can activate learners' prior knowledge and promote more effective problem solving. One student said in a reflection, "Relating things to my daily life helped me to retain information better." For the second principle, promoting conceptual change, contextualization of content in interactive classroom engagement activities that motivates students with a concept's relevance can improve learning. One example was a video on precipitation of a supersaturated solution, which improved student learning in a concept quiz on solutions and solubility, from Hake gain of 33% without a video to 81% when a video was included. For the third principle, promoting metacognition, contextualization of content helps students reflect on their learning to bridge ideas from a familiar concrete context of an abstract concept so they can recognize their own personal relationship to these concepts. One student said in a reflection, "Helped me reflect on what I enjoyed and understood well from the lecture." The students' motivation for using contextualized content is well supported by a Spring 2016 semester beginning survey on Student Classroom Motivation Survey for using real world applications related to course content and concepts. The survey consisted of 24 statements based on Expectancy Value Theory on a scale of 1, strongly disagree, to 4, strongly agree. Students agreed or strongly agreed with almost all statements with the following values; 2.58 for expectancy (expectation to succeed); 3.16 for value (of contextualization); and 2.12 for (cost of using contextualization). These values support questions from another exit survey on Support of Student Learning Strategies from Spring 2014. For the strategy of using contextualized hands-on classroom activities, 91% said it supported or strongly supported their learning. For contextualized mini-lecture, 79% said it supported or strongly supported their learning. Finally, for the statement, "Material I learned in this class will be of value to me after graduation in career or graduate school," 86% agreed or strongly agreed. Overall, the key feature of contextualization of content in the web-enabled, engagement and feedback pedagogy in the JTF project played an important role in enhancing student attitude, achievement, and persistence.

Krause, S. J., & Waters, C., & Stuart, W. J., & Judson, E., & Ankeny, C. J., & Smith, B. B. (2016, June), Effect of Contextualization of Content and Concepts on Students' Course Relevance and Value in Introductory Materials Classes Paper presented at 2016 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, New Orleans, Louisiana. 10.18260/p.26894

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